Focal passage: Luke 3:7-18
Reuters included a headline in their daily news briefing a while back that revealed the attitude of many Americans. It read, “After 4.2 million COVID-19 cases in November, U.S. pins hope on vaccine.” The message was clear. With all of the turmoil created by the coronavirus, Americans put their desperate hope in a vaccine.
While I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of the pandemic, nor the incredible efforts by medical professionals who are working toward a vaccine, it is revealing where people place their hope. When tragedy strikes, where do you turn?
The crowd to whom John the Baptist preached were stricken with their own tragedy. Not a natural disaster or viral infection, but one of a spiritual nature. John tells the Pharisees in verse 7, “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” and the crowds later in verse 9, “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” John was referring to the seriousness of their sin.
The crowd was obviously concerned hearing John’s words. “‘What should we do then?’ the crowd asked” (v 10). John encourages the people to deal rightly with one another. However, more than simply teaching behavior modification, John was teaching the people what true repentance looked like. He was preparing them for Jesus, the one to whom they would turn.
“Repentance” is a word not often used today. It can be defined as a change of mind and purpose toward God and away from sin. Genuine repentance naturally produces a change of behavior. That’s why John challenges the people by saying, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (v 8).
The essential challenge of John’s message is the same for us today. Will we choose repentance or go our own way? While saving repentance is a one-time occasion, a Christian should maintain a life-long posture of repentance.
True hope doesn’t come from our circumstances. Genuine hope comes through repentance and trust in Jesus Christ who takes away our sins.
Is there something you need to repent of today? Perhaps it’s a secret which you’ve been hiding or an attitude you’ve slipped into. Whatever it may be, you can always find mercy at the feet of Jesus.